The Flaming Lips – Paradiso, Amsterdam – April


The Paradiso, greatest venue in Amsterdam many say, a wonderful room and the spiritual home of rock and roll as some guy with a beard once told me in a forceful manner. This is probably all true, but Christ it manages to attract a bunch of absolute fuckwits that just ruin the atmosphere on almost every occasion. Reviewing this gig will result in something rather bitty I’m sure because it was a night of polar opposites. As far as the band goes, never have I seen a band put as much effort into making a show something spectacular and memorable and never have I seen a crowd just kind of sit there and stare blankly back at them. The Paradiso main hall is notorious for having crowds that take a while to warm up, but they were so polite and laid back here that I just wanted to scream and shake them all by the scruff of the neck. I suppose a lot of them decided, “Hey, it’s the Flaming Lips, let’s get stoned and that way the stage show will look even cooler.” I’m sure it worked, but having a few hundred people staring blankly and grinning widely does not a good atmosphere make. As if you need to get high to enjoy a Flaming Lips show?


For starters, they dropped a couple of hundred giant yellow balloons from the top balcony, then they had a roadie dressed as an Arab and another dressed as Wonder Woman. Then they shot giant confetti cannons over the crowd, filling the room with millions of floating coloured pieces of paper. They also had a group of people on one side of the stage dressed as Aliens holding torches, representing the Church of Scientology of course and on the other they had a group of sexy looking girls dressed in Santa outfits, representing the Christian faith naturally. In the middle, you had the band, with Wayne Coyne still looking like a mad scientist, Michael the bass player still sat on a chair trying to look uninterested, the drummer still bashing away at his kit like a child in a bad mood and Stephen working wonders with almost everything he put his hands and mouth too. Then you had the large video screen behind the band, forcing psychedelic images and extreme close ups of Wayne’s teeth directly into your brain. Then you had smoke machines and Wayne’s strobe suit. You had swinging lightbulbs and streamer guns. We were even serenaded at one point by a glove puppet of a nun. Now if that’s not value for money I don’t know what is?


So after all of this, after all the streamers and aliens and super heroes and balloons and megaphones and everything else, can some people not have the common decency and respect for the people up on stage to just shut the fuck up for a minute and listen to what they have to say? There was a moment that just summed up everything I feel about the average Paradiso punter, you know the ones, they’re always herded by the bar talking loudly about their latest trip to Zandvoort or something particularly banal. Wayne Coyne took a moment to thank the crowd, to say how lucky he and the band felt for having the greatest audiences of any band and some fucking tonk at the back started shouting, “Speler! Speler!” I mean, who the fuck do they think they are?


Ok, I’m talking to you directly now, whoever you are. I heard your comments and I heard you laughing about them afterwards and I’m asking you this directly, if you’re not entertained by balloons and streamers and aliens and Santa Clauses and megaphones, what the fuck are you entertained by? Answers on a postcard please, I’m dying to know.


Now if I left things there I’m sure those of you that weren’t in the crowd and have never seen the Flaming Lips before will be thinking, “Streamers, aliens and Christian Santas? I’m there!” and you will be right to think so. If you haven’t seen the Flaming Lips play live before then you simply are living a wasted life, it’s that simple. But notice how, after all the things I’ve said, excusing my rants of course, that I haven’t mentioned the music once. Don’t worry though, because the music itself is fantastic. You can wrap almost any band in the world up in streamers, balloons and all the other gadgetry and stuff and have a great night, because the show itself would be memorable, but what’s so special about the Flaming Lips is that, despite the dancers and torches and streamer guns they are a truly outstanding live band.


Race For The Prize is not only one of the single most uplifting songs of all time, I’m now convinced that it must be the greatest opening song of all time. When those drums splash in that intro the whole crowd you know instantly that you’re leaving the world you know and heading into the bizarre and enthralling world of the Flaming Lips and boy does it make you feel good. Waiting For A Superman is still as affecting as it was when I first heard it and Do You Realize is possibly the only song I’ve ever heard that makes me feel happy and want to cry uncontrollably at the same time. Also, I may have heard the song a gazillion times but there’s something so wonderful about She Don’t Use Jelly that I just can’t describe. The sing-a-long to that here was truly wonderful, it has to be said.


What impressed me most though wasn’t any of the established material, but just how fantastic the cuts from their new album At War With The Mystics sounded here. If you’ve read my review of the album elsewhere on the site; (and I sincerely hope you have) you’ll know that I loved it and think it’s a marvellous piece of work, well to be honest, it sounds like a shitty demo compared to how it comes across live. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song sounded so good here I just found myself giggling all the way through it, so loud, bombastic and exhilarating it was. The WAND didn’t really grab me when I first heard it, although it grew on me rather quickly but I never expected it to make so much sense to me like it did here. Brash, loud, in your face and totally warranted in every aspect of its lunacy and as for Haven’t Got a Clue, well I simply don’t know the words that would describe how monumental this song is live. It bounces, it floats, it’s…..well, it’s just astonishing. But then how can you not love a song that includes the line “every time you throw a fit, I can’t decide if you’re full of it.” Not only that but I swear there’s a kazoo involved at some point.


The Flaming Lips are more than just a band, they’re a party, they’re a spiritual high, they’re almost a way of life. We should be thankful that we live in a time where we can spend time in the presence of such genius. Best band on the planet? Show me a better one if you can. It’s a shame it’s so easy to find a better crowd though.


Words : Damian Leslie

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